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Sailing through the History of the S.S. Badger and its ties to Sturgeon Bay

Posted at 9:17 PM, Nov 07, 2023
  • Video shows the S.S. Badger when it was dry-docked in Sturgeon Bay.
  • The Badger was built by the Christy Corporation in 1952.
  • The Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding group completes maintenance on the ship every five to six years.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

When you think about the S.S. Badger, you probably think about Manitowoc or Ludington, not Door County. I'm your Door County neighborhood reporter Katlyn holt.

The Badger was made right here and I spoke with those who know all about its unique past.

"It's kind of the last of an era which makes it unique and just adds to the history," said Arnott.

That’s Cheryl Arnott the manager of ship repair services for Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.

Her team oversees the maintenance of the S.S. Badger every five to six years.

"It's just an honor. We just kind of make sure to give it a little extra special attention. Everybody's excited when it comes in. The whole town becomes a buzz and then the shipyard itself also," said Arnott.

The S.S. Badger Ferry was built in 1952 by the Christy Corporation of Sturgeon Bay which is now the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Group.

After 70 years of service, the Badger is now the last coal-fired passenger steamship in the United States and it gets to return "home," to Sturgeon Bay every 5 to 6 years for maintenance.

Sam Perlman, the deputy director and development manager for the Door County Maritime Museum, shared just how special this ship is.

"It's a living breathing part of Wisconsin’s maritime not just history, but its actual presence," said Perlman.

Perlman says there is a sense of pride when it comes to ships built in Door County and the Badger is a vessel that has adapted to continue its usefulness.

"It was designed originally to bring railway rail cars across the lake and now obviously it brings tons of passengers and recreational vessels and personal cars across the lakes every day," said Perlman.

Arnott says her team works hard to make sure the vessel is ready for many seasons to come.

"It's one of the few boats that the public gets to enjoy onboard not just you know, driving by. So, it's an honor to be able to work on a historical ship that honestly brings much joy to so many people," said Arnott.

The S.S. Badger was last in for maintenance in December of 2021, so it should be making its return to Door County in either 2025 or 2026. in Sturgeon Bay, Katlyn Holt, NBC 26.